Healthcare leaders welcome the appointment of Kate Walsh as Massachusetts Secretary of Health

Gov. Maura Healey has tapped Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center, to head the state’s sprawling Secretariat of Health and Human Services.

Walsh, a veteran healthcare executive, is the latest of Healey’s appointments since the new governor took office on Jan. 5.

“Kate Walsh is exactly the leadership Massachusetts needs at this public health moment,” Healey said in a statement addressing food and housing insecurity.”

Walsh succeeds Marylou Sudders at the helm of the state’s largest executive office. Sudders, the longest-serving Minister for Health and Human Services, retired earlier this month with the new government taking office.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services includes a dozen state agencies and the MassHealth program with a total budget of over $27 billion and 22,000 public employees. The services and programs under the agency’s oversight account for 53% of the state budget and treat one in three residents, according to EOHHS.

“This is a critical moment for our state as we continue to grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, widening health disparities, skyrocketing health care costs and a devastating behavioral crisis,” Walsh said in a statement.

Healthcare leaders welcomed her appointment to Healey’s cabinet.

Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association President Steve Walsh (who is not related to Kate Walsh) called her “an embodiment of what our healthcare system aspires to be” and “an excellent choice.”

Amy Rosenthal, executive director of consumer advocacy group Health Care For All, said: “We are confident that she will continue to advance health equity, affordability and accessibility of care given the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges in our healthcare system.” that impacts the people of the Commonwealth every day.”

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Tim Foley, executive vice president of 1199SEIU, Massachusetts’s largest healthcare union, said Walsh understands the many challenges facing the healthcare system and its workers.

“But I think she still has a lot to learn when it comes to nursing homes and home care,” he told WBUR. “And that’s an area where we hope to work with her, as well as the issues that affect hospital workers.”

Walsh has led BMC for nearly 13 years. Previously, she served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Senior Vice President at Massachusetts General Hospital, among other leadership positions.

She is a graduate of Yale University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters in Public Health.

At BMC, Walsh has launched initiatives to advance health equity, behavioral health and addiction treatment. She campaigned on Beacon Hill for more resources for behavioral healthcare and led a collaboration to create affordable housing in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan to educate and connect Black and Hispanic residents with full-time jobs in healthcare, technology and biotechnology.

“We are pleased that she brings her experience, passion and commitment to excellence to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and have no doubt that she will be a positive force for people across the state,” said Mark Nunnelly, Chairman of the Board of Trustees by BMC, said in a statement.

BMC’s President, Dr. Alastair Bell, will serve as the hospital’s interim CEO.

With reporting by Sam Drysdale of the State House News Service.

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